Bill Clinton comments on ‘separatist’ politics, Chicago violence at U of C

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The Clinton Foundation hosted an event at the University of Chicago Friday night. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Hosting several young activists from around the world, former President Bill Clinton on Friday argued that harder policing isn’t the solution to Chicago violence.

Chelsea Clinton also commented about the nation’s political divides in her remarks before she introduced her father at the Clinton Foundation event, held at the University of Chicago.

The 42nd president said those who attack underrepresented groups do it to “fill this emotional chasm … that we think our differences matter more.”

He added: “One of the things that is most disturbing about this new separatist time is, there seems to be an assumption that … in order for you to win, someone else has to lose.”

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking at Roosevelt University in June. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking at Roosevelt University in June. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Clinton’s remarks about Chicago came during a panel that included 18-year-old activist D’Angelo McDade, wounded last year in a shooting that killed his grandfather and uncle on the front porch of their West Side home. None were the intended targets.

“Chicago gets high publicity for a high crime rate, a high murder rate. But it’s all confined to about 10 percent of the wards here,” Clinton said Friday at the panel. “You cannot police your way out of this, the people have to do this.”

One of those people is McDade; the shooting spurred him to work toward solutions to gun violence. His group, the Peace Warrior Organization at North Lawndale College Prep, has recruited 1,129 student employees citywide.

“Surviving is the only goal that I had,” said McDade, who still has a bullet fragment in his body. “As young people, we like to set trends. Why not set the trend that I’m better than what other people already said that I was.”

D’Angelo McDade, left, and Alex King, both from North Lawndale College Prep, spoke at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. in May. | AP file photo

D’Angelo McDade, left, and Alex King, both from North Lawndale College Prep, spoke at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. in May. | AP file photo

Asked by Clinton how he relates to local police, McDade said officers can’t protect anyone if they don’t understand the communities they’re serving.

“Very often, we don’t criticize our officers,” McDade said. “This is one beloved community … we can work together.”

Also on the panel was Syrian refugee, activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan, known for her work in Syria to keep girls there in school.

Almellehan said she was sad — but also motivated — when told it would be better to marry than get an education.

“I strongly believe education is the only solution to rebuild my country and to help so many children in the world,” Almellehan said.

The other panelists were Wai Wai Nu, a Burmese activist working for equality for the Rohingya people in Myanmar; and Astrid Silva, an activist fighting to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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